What Age to Start Jiu Jitsu? A Guide for Parents

Two children engaging in jiu jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial arts combat sport that teaches self-defense, promotes physical fitness, and builds character.

It’s a way of life that has a profound impact on anyone involved in the sport.

The benefits of training BJJ are immeasurable for students of all ages, even children.

The key to unlocking the physical, social, and emotional benefits of Jiu Jitsu for younger children is to start training at the right time. 

So, what’s the best age Jiu Jitsu students should begin training? When is it safe for your child to engage in a contact sport? These are all common questions parents consider before they place their child as a new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu student. Most BJJ schools have complete programs and dedicated classes for young students.

When it comes to children, BJJ helps encourage positive growth and development. But the “earlier the better” is not necessarily a good rule of thumb for martial arts training. Let’s take a closer look at kids in BJJ.

When should kids start? What can parents expect? Where does your child fit? We’ve got all your answers to help guide you towards the right decision when it comes to starting your child in training. 

What’s the Best Age to Start Jiu Jitsu for Kids? 

When it comes to kids training in BJJ, there’s no black and white answer for what’s the best age. That’s because the right answer is specific to your child.

Some children start as young as three or four-years-old. The problem with starting your child too young is that they can develop an aversion for the sport if they’re not ready. 

Most BJJ professionals suggest starting your child around the age of six or when they are in first grade. That’s because they’ve already developed a basic level of independence.

By first grade, the school structure has already instilled in them the importance of discipline, following instructions, and positive social interactions. 

The best way to determine whether or not your child is ready for BJJ training is to give it a try.

Things to consider before enrolling your child in Jiu Jitsu

  • Do they have the communication skills necessary to verbalize their needs and desires to an instructor independently? Can they sit through a class for the expected time frame? 
  • Are they bathroom trained? 
  • Can they follow the rules? Are they teachable? Will they listen to instruction and feedback? If not, you may want to wait to enroll. 
  • Am I willing to provide positive encouragement and motivation? 
  • Is there a school nearby? Both you and your child need to commit to their enrollment, and convenience has a lot to do with that success. 
  • Do they have any friends, family members, or peers in a local class? While they’ll undoubtedly make lots of new friends along the way, going into a class where they know someone can help motivate them and ease the transition. 

Being shy or outgoing is ok, but a child who refuses to participate or is too distractible might not be ready just yet. Social maturity has a lot to do with your child’s success in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training.

The good news is that an experienced BJJ coach can help evaluate your child and determine if they’re ready now or if they need more time. 

The key to your child’s success is, to be honest with their instructor about their abilities and open to suggestions. The better you communicate on your child’s behalf, the closer they will be to finding the right age to start their BJJ journey. 

Kids in BJJ

Starting your child in BJJ can genuinely change their life for the better. It’s a positive hobby that goes beyond the basic concept of learning of self-defense.

The physical, social, and emotional benefits of BJJ for kids include

  • Physical agility, flexibility, and muscle development
  • Promotes normal development
  • Improves coordination and balance
  • Helps control and manage behaviors
  • Provides a positive outlet for energy 
  • Helps cope with and accept emotions
  • Strengthens memory and brain function, encourages positive mental growth
  • Teaches good sportsmanship, helps children learn to work well with others
  • Boosts self-confidence
  • Improves focus
  • Helps develop leadership skills and problem-solving skills
  • Reduces stress
  • Encourages respect, patience, and commitment
  • Teaches kids about goal setting and following through

BJJ even promotes anti-bullying, both teaching children to defend themselves against bullies and to avoid bullying others. 

Before you enroll your child in a BJJ class, there are a few things parents should remember.

For starters, will your child join Jiu Jitsu as a healthy activity or as a competitor? Jiu Jitsu, as a regular activity, is healthy at a younger age.

5 to 7-year-olds should start by taking a class to learn the basics of the art.

8 to 12-year-olds are usually mature enough to put in the training work, follow the rules of the mat, and deal with losses in a healthy way. 

Whether training competitively or not, keep in mind that not all children are born athletic. But they can become athletic with a team of support and consistent training.

The old saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” and this is especially true for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Encourage your kids to practice.

Don’t put too much pressure on winning competitions or moving to the next belt. Be enthusiastic about small victories, like learning a new skill, training hard, and any other sign of growth.

Remember, how you act affects your children. Parents and coaches need balance, too.

Age Groups

Most Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools over classes that are split into age groups. The requirements of each group are focused on age-appropriate expectations for your child.

Here are some examples of different age groups you will find in Jiu Jitsu training:

  • Classes for 5-7-year-old students usually only run 30 minutes long. This helps students retain knowledge and stay interested in the class and the instruction. 
  • Classes for 8-12-year-old students have a different focus for instruction and can be anywhere from 45-60 minutes long.
  • 13-16-year-old students are not considered children or adults and have different physical and mental needs than other students. Their classes are focused on those needs. 
  • 17+ usually train with adult groups. 

While your child’s Jiu Jitsu school will most likely have specific age groups for classes, you can talk to instructors about the particular needs of your child and place them accordingly.

Some schools even use a mixed age group approach.

For example, students ages 4-12 will train together, warming up as a group then splitting into smaller teams.

This is known to be beneficial for younger children who look to older students as positive role models. 

What to Expect

Now that you understand how age plays a role in your child’s success in BJJ, let’s take a moment to go over what to expect when you sign up.

The first class is always a trial for new students. They’ll get to know the environment of their school and meet coaches and classmates. Both you and the instructor should be able to get a vibe from your child based on their first class.

Ultimately, you want to make it a fun, positive experience that leaves your child excited about the sport. 

Arrive a few minutes early so your child can get comfortable with the school. If you’ve already signed up, you might get a BJJ uniform called a Gi. Getting it ahead of time will help your child fit in and feel more comfortable.

If you don’t have a uniform yet, be sure they wear comfortable clothes.

They should come dressed in sweats or shorts and a t-shirt, the clothing they would typically wear to participate in physical activity. 

You can usually find a decent kid’s Jiu Jitus gi between $35 – $70.

Since it requires less material to make, the smaller the kid, the cheaper the gi will be, and because prices are always changing, check Amazon for kids BJJ gis.

Tips for Parents

Now that you’ve covered all the basics, let’s go over some quick tips for parents to help promote your child’s success as they begin this new lifestyle. 

Avoid setting your expectations too high.

Doing so can create a negative experience for your child. Don’t expect them to act like perfect children throughout the class. Depending on the age they start, these may be skills they need to learn as time goes on. Fortunately, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an excellent tool for discipline. 

Let the coach handle your kids.

It’s easy to jump up and start shouting instructions from the sideline, but this won’t help your child. Leave the coaching to the coach. Some schools even ask that you don’t watch your child, except for specified dates and times. Even if your child is bugging other children or testing the instructors, let their coach handle it. This will help them develop a good relationship with their coaches and promote self-discipline over time. 

Just because your child gets upset one day, don’t quit.

Every child gets upset at some point. Make sure nothing is seriously wrong, then encourage them to get back on the mat. The only time you should let them quit is if you really feel they aren’t enjoying the sport. 

Let your child be the guide.

If they want to add additional training sessions each week, give it a try. If they want to train less, ask questions. Listen to what they are telling you. 

Be sure your child’s instructors are a good fit. Check the coach to student ratio. Just like parents, coaches can come down too hard on kids at times. If you don’t feel like the coach is a good fit for your child, don’t feel bad. Simply look for another class or another school that works better. 

Avoid pressure

Parents need to set positive, realistic expectations on and off the mat. Training is a long marathon, not a sprint. Each child develops at their own pace. Be patient and let them find their way in their own time. 

Be a safety net

Kids who have a positive support system are much more likely to be successful and stick with the sport. For most kids, motivation comes from their families. You need to be understanding when they fail, but strong enough to encourage them to get up and try again. 

Enrolling your child in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will be a life-changing experience for your entire family.

If you think your child is ready for the sport, let them give it a try. Without forcing the sport on your kids, encourage consistency, and give them the tools they need for success.

Remember, not all kids will be world champions. Your job right now is to make sure your child is having fun. When kids truly find enjoyment in the sport, BJJ becomes a lifestyle that benefits them emotionally, physically, and socially.

What better gift to give your kids than a tool that positively impacts every aspect of their growth and development? 

Check out our article, Here’s Why Jiu Jitsu is the Best Martial Art for Kids

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